Saturday, November 7, 2009

Dog Day

Four appointments today. Spread out around the metro area. Equipped with printed mapquests, an aging and out of date GPS in the car, the sporadically functional Sprint navigation system on my Blackberry, a full tank of gas and a 12-pack of Diet Coke, I head out to earn my daily bread.

House calls. That's what's happening today. Meeting folks at their homes to close their loans. Generally it's OK. Today all the folks seemed nice on the phone, and I am on schedule, so things look good.

I'm leaving appointment number 2, driving and typing in my next destination on the GPS when - BAM! - I've hit some crazy huge pothole in the road. I feel like one of my tires is flat, and the road is windy and fast, so I vear into an uphill side street as the dashboard lights start to go crazy, and then pull into somebody's driveway.

I stop and catch my breath. Well! That was stressful. Now what?

I look at the house and it seems that nobody is home. Check out the car and sure enough, a back tire is cut and flat. F-word. What to do now?

I call my wife to come pick me up. She's not answering. I'm thinking I'll need to find a number for a tow truck. Obviously it has been a long time since I've had a flat tire and I'm not thinking clearly because it takes me a while to remember that cars come with a spare tire. An extra tire! Just for this situation!

This is the kind of realization that makes you feel stupid for not thinking of it sooner.

So my first step is to the glove compartment, to flip open the owner's manual and figure out where this spare tire might be. It's in the trunk! Finding it under the carpet back there, I reach in and grab it and give a mighty heave and . . . nothing. Try again. And again. It won't budge. Boy, I am really out of shape. Then I realize that the tire is screwed into place back there so it won't bounce around.

This is the kind of realization that . . . well, you know.

Eventually the tire is out, leaning against the back bumper, and the jack is affixed to the car and I am jacking away to lift the deceased tire off of the ground. Then suddenly I see a shadow move out of the corner of my eye, and thinking that someone has approached (perhaps a suspicious neighbor), I look up to see the spare tire rolling away down the hill of the street. By jacking the car up I've caused the spare tire to stand up as well. And it is doing what all tires are born to do - hit the open road.

Thinking quickly, I decide to panic. I run after the tire toward the fast windy road at the bottom of the hill, waving my arms ridiculously and yelling "look out!" Cars stop. The drivers are polite. No honking or glaring looks. I wave apologetically and retrieve the tire.

It's getting hot. I'm wishing I wasn't wearing a suit.

Back to business. I carefully place the spare tire along the side of the car this time, and return to jacking the car up. I successfully unscrew the flat tire and haul it around to the trunk, where I (FATAL MISTAKE ALERT!) proceed to heave it into the trunk. Then I proceed to push and pull the tire to get it into the trunk's special spare tire wheel well that hides under the carpet back there. As I'm pushing and pulling, suddenly space and time seem out of sorts and I think I might be dizzy, but a loud crashing sounds makes me suddenly realize that the car has been moving and has now fallen off of the jack and the car and the wheel hub are now lying flat on the ground.

Thinking quickly, I decide to flail my arms up and down and yell the F-word repeatedly. Then suddenly I see a shadow move out of the corner of my eye, and thinking that someone has approached (perhaps a good samaritan who will change the tire for me), I look up to see the the spare tire rolling down the hill AGAIN.

Feeling that fate is against me, I am even more panicked this time, and run down the hill once more. Arms flailing, yelling warnings, hoping that nobody gets hurt because I cannot change a tire properly. Rolling the spare tire up the hill, again, I wonder about how to get the car off the ground.

Amazingly, the jack still fits under the car even when it is flat on the ground. Maybe there really is something to that German engineering rep. I silently thank whoever designed the jack for doing a good job, and start cranking.

A short time later, I'm back on the road. I'm not even that dirty. I wonder if I have a road hazard warranty for the flat tire. The whole episode only lasted about an hour. Not so bad.

If I hurry I can get back on schedule. Here's another insight I'd learned and forgotten, when towns run into budget problems, like now, police seem to give out more tickets. Hurrying begets speeding which begets speeding tickets. So a nice police officer reminded me to drive safely by begiving me a ticket. I can't say I didn't deserve it.

Tomorrow I'll be more careful.